AmeriCorps Highlights from January-March 2023

April 12, 2023

AmeriCorps is helping preserve heritage plant varieties, teaching encracerated people to be better parents, and guiding youth in agriculture.

Prison garden planting

Prisoners at the Manzanita Unit of the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson are learning to nurture plants and children.

Brad Poole, Cooperative Extension

Nursery Plant Demonstration Project Under Way

The AmeriCorps-supported Greenlee County High School Agriculture Program has been growing every year. In the 2021-22 school year, students learned fundamentals of nursery plant production, then sold plants to help fund high school agriculture and Future Farmers of America community projects. This generated higher demand for plants and increased student participation, resulting in the start of construction on a second, larger greenhouse, which will operate on harvested rainwater. The greenhouse will be a community demonstration site and hands-on learning experience.

Unnamed Grape Variety Preserved

AmeriCorps also helped with preservation of historic Greenlee County plants. Heirloom varieties often have qualities better suited to the backyard grower than modern varieties bred for commercial production. Extension and AmeriCorps helped a family preserve grapes and figs planted more than 70 years ago. The team gathered history and video footage, which will help other families preserve their horticultural history. Cuttings will help save an unnamed variety of grape, which is ideal for our climate, before it is lost to history.

- Bill Cook, Greenlee County AmeriCorps site supervisor

Prison Garden Teaches Parenting

AmeriCorps supported the Family Engagement Positive Parenting Program, which offers parenting classes to incarcerated people. Our Prison Garden Project, currently a pilot program at the Arizona State Prison Complex Manzanita Unit, combines gardening with the Positive Parenting curriculum. The program uses gardening to teach incarcerated parents how to engage, let go, encourage, redirect, and nurture their children. The curriculum teaches that gardening is like parenting, in that children and gardens rely on caregivers to grow and flourish. Through the program, parents - dads in particular – have seen the importance of their roles in their children's lives. This is the first time a project of its kind has been done in the Arizona prison system.

- McKenzie Meza, Pima County AmeriCorps site supervisor